The first and perhaps most engaging panel is led by Stephanie Stokes Oliver on the current state of publishing, focusing on the pros and cons of self-publishing, the audience for black and Caribbean literature, and the importance of identifying and writing in your own authentic voice. Names like Maryse Conde, internationally acclaimed, Guadelopean author (though lesser known in the states), and Gillian Royce, author of The Goat Woman of Largo Bay, float on the air like mysterious incantations that inspire the inner-writer and quicken the creative appetite.
Later in the afternoon Terry McMillian takes to the podium to deliver her keynote address. She is at once commanding, intimidating, profoundly accessible, and wise. While her wry sense of humor and no nonsense approach is threatening to some, she conveys a depth of feeling and truth that comes only with experience. She beseeches the writer to write as if no one is watching, as if you are telling a story to your very best friend who you haven’t seen in years. She also alludes to her upcoming work– where she contemplates a mother whose children have grown into lives incongruent with their upbringing. McMillan goes on to highlight the learning opportunity that writing offers us all, deepening our ability to empathize with the experience of the proverbial other.
After a sun drenched day full of lively discourse on writing, race, and cultural memory (the later offered by Randall Robinson during a rousing reading from his novel Makeda, which explores the loss of identity and culture along the middle passage through the story of a grandmother in America who remembers her past life as an African princess), we depart for cocktails and an evening of luxury served cool and dark at the formidable Viceroy hotel and resort. A celebrity haven, the Viceroy is sprawling, offering a breathtaking view of the beach, that, with its long, warmly lit, mosoleumesque corridors is perfect for clandestine night walks – its beach front terrace, framed in moonlight, sure enough to satisfy the dark romantic in any traveler.